Planning Board Approves ‘100 Percent Affordable’ Whitefish Subdivision

Council will take action on 58-unit subdivision on May 7

By Tristan Scott
Whitefish City Hall. Beacon file photo

A proposal to develop a 58-unit “100-percent affordable” subdivision tailored entirely to Whitefish’s workforce housing market was met with support by the city’s planning board last week, despite an adjacent neighborhood’s concerns over traffic safety and stormwater drainage.

In a 4-1 vote on April 19, the Whitefish Planning Board approved the Trail View project near the intersection of Monegan and Voerman roads, south of Creekwood Estates on the eastern edge of Whitefish.

The applicant, Jerry Dunker, is seeking approval of a 58-lot subdivision composed entirely of affordable housing units. He appeared before the planning board because he needs a preliminary plat with a planned-unit development (PUD) overlay for the housing project to move forward. The Whitefish City Council will take action on the matter at its May 7 meeting.

Dunker, a full-time physician with Kalispell Regional Healthcare, said he understands the concern of neighboring residents who already struggle with traffic safety. But he explained that a project of this kind is needed in Whitefish, whose city leaders adopted a blueprint to guide the community as it grapples with an affordable housing crisis.

The workforce housing study was undertaken as residents grapple with a scarce rental inventory, while homeownership remains out of reach for young professionals looking to enter an outsized market that towers above the average household income. The report identified the need for 580 new affordable units by 2020.

“This project alone amounts to 10 percent of that,” John Ellis, planning board vice chair, said. “That’s a pretty significant chunk.”

According to Dunker, the proposed planned-unit development “will provide 100 percent affordable, single-family homes.” Dunker is proposing a 58-unit detached, single-family residential neighborhood on 8.8 acres at the southwest corner of the intersection of Monegan and Voerman. The application calls for a density of 6.6 units per acre and 66 percent open space.

Addressing neighbors’ concerns, which centered primarily on the safety of children walking to school, Dunker said an in-depth traffic study showed minimum impact.

“The big unknown is how many school-aged children are going to live there,” he said. “The state identified 18 children at full build out. But whether it’s 18 kids or two kids or 30 kids, they are going to want to walk to school and their families will have the same concerns about traffic. That means more people will demand safety within the development.”

Dunker also noted that the project is between three and four years in the making, with the first phase developing 13 homes. An uptick in traffic won’t occur overnight, he said.

“I’m a full time employee,” Dunker said. “You don’t get involved in a workforce housing project to make a lot of money. This is a public cause and it’s completely privately funded.”

According to the application, access to the neighborhood will be via two points off Monegan Road. There is a single north-south private road serving the proposed homes. Each home will front on a common open space and a private alleyway will serve as vehicle access. The private road is proposed to have a sidewalk on the west side and 90-degree, on-street parking on the west side of the road.

According to the application, 100 percent of the units will be deed restricted with 50 percent (29 units) having a price limitation to serve a particular area median income within the community.

The homes will be designed as single-family two- and three-story structures between 900 and 1,300 square feet.

The proposal has received considerable pushback from residents of Creekwood Estates, whose concerns centered on traffic congestion and safety.

In another 4-1 vote on April 19, the planning board voted to approve a proposal by Schumacher Interest Inc., which is requesting a planned-unit development overlay to develop 60 condominiums at 6405 U.S. 93 South, near the Mountain Mall pond beside Sportsman and Ski Haus. The application identifies the development as Eagle Lake.

The condos would be housed in 10 buildings, with between five and 10 buildings per unit.

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